The AUD$3 billion (US$2.3 billion) casino, apartment and hotel mega-project in Australia’s Gold Coast has been dragged into the spotlight for its alleged links to the Chinese government.
After thorough legwork and research, The Australian found that the Sydney-based, ASF Group, which is behind a consortium tasked to build the multi-billion dollar construction project on the Gold Coast is backed by Chinese-based interests.
What makes it interesting, according to the news report, was the fact that these Chinese-based interests that hold the vast majority of shares in ASF have links to the Chinese government.
The report added that “there could be a backlash if it emerges the anti-gambling Chinese government is the key proponent of the project” since “China is detaining without charge three Australian Crown employees on suspicion of gambling.”
Citing data they culled in the field, ASF’s top 20 shareholders are dominated by Chinese investors and that none of the shareholders are Australian. ASF Group’s top shareholders included Standard Moral International Limited, Forever Grand Group and Ruby Bridge Group.
Specifically, 12 of the 20 shareholders were companies while the remaining eight are based in Hong Kong or Mainland China.
The ASF, according to the report, disclosed that its “consortium partners” include Chinese government-owned construction group China State Construction Engineering Corporation, a “tier-one casino operator” and “at least one other cornerstone entity.”
But ASF’s links to Chinese government is just the tip of the iceberg.
ASF reportedly lost AUD$92 million (US$69.5 million) of the AUD$102 million (US$77.08 million) it has raised from investors, prompting its auditors to sound the alarm bells on the “material uncertainty” on its ability to stay afloat.
It also raised eyebrows on the ability of the consortium to carry out the project “as it appears to have no experience in property development.”
Both ASF Group and Queensland State Development Minister Anthony Lynham declined to comment when asked whether ASF Group was a front and the project was in fact to be developed by the Chinese government.